< PrevNext > Anthony Foxx, U.S. Secretary of Transportation The Air Alliance Agitator By Michael B. Baker / December 20, 2016 / Contact Reporter Share When global airlines announce alliance plans, the caveat "pending government approval" often feels like a mere formality. Late this year, however, two decisions by the U.S. Department of Transportation, headed by Foxx, put one major alliance plan on ice and sent another into a tailspin.American Airlines and Qantas waited nearly 18 months for antitrust immunity to expand their joint-venture agreement allowing coordination of schedules, cross-selling and revenue sharing. Regulators in Australia and New Zealand gave their approval, and both American and Qantas built up service in anticipation of a transpacific network.On Nov. 18, however, the DOT denied the application, saying it would create a "potentially anticompetitive environment," as the two carriers would control about 60 percent of capacity between the United States and Australia. The DOT gave the carriers two weeks to raise an objection, and deciding that was not sufficient time, American and Qantas withdrew their application. Now each is forced to reevaluate its transpacific strategy.Just a few weeks prior, the DOT similarly disrupted Delta Air Lines' plan for a JV with Aeromexico. While the DOT did give tentative approval for antitrust immunity to the carriers, it did so with the stipulation that they give up 24 landing slots in Mexico City and six at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. In its objection filing, Delta called the stipulations "unprecedented" and indicated the carriers would have to reconsider the alliance if forced to comply. The DOT maintained its requirement to remove 24 Mexico City slots but reduced the number the JV would have to remove at JFK to four. On Dec. 21, Delta and Aeromexico agreed to those stipulations.Also this year, the DOT under Foxx opened up daytime service for U.S. carriers at Tokyo's downtown Haneda airport for the first time since 1978. Foxx said the move fit the DOT's "mission to promote competition and encourage enhanced air service options in the U.S. and abroad."While the agreement opened up only five slots—four of those shifted from current nighttime slots—it was enough to shake up U.S. carriers' transpacific strategy. Even though Delta received two of the five slots, the carrier also ended service on three routes from Tokyo's more remote Narita Airport. Delta reasoned it would be too tough to compete with daytime Narita flights newly available to American and United Airlines, both of which also have JVs with Japanese airlines. The transpacific strategy revisit also prompted Delta to thaw its frosty relationship with SkyTeam partner Korean Air, with whom Delta announced expanded codeshare cooperation in September.